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    PUTIN WATCHES ARCTIC FLEET EXERCISES

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    SEVEROMORSK, FEBRUARY 17, RIA NOVOSTI - Vladimir Putin spent most of the day Tuesday on the conning bridge of the Arkhangelsk strategic nuclear missile-carrying cruiser submarine and observing the Arctic fleet's exercises, reports the Russian president's press-secretary Alexey Gromov.

    Besides, the head of state met with the Arkhangelsk crew of draftees and contract sailors. He also accepted a report by the Navy commander-in-chief Vladimir Kuroedov on the state and prospects of the Navy's development.

    On arriving in the Severomorsk base of the Russian Arctic navy, Vladimir Putin, together with Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov and Navy commander-in-chief Kuroedov, got on the Arkhangelsk cruiser which belongs to the class of heavy nuclear missile-carrying cruisers of strategic designation, third generation of project 941 "Shark" (classified in the West as "Typhoon"). These submarines designed in the St.Petersburg Rubin centre are considered to be largest in the world.

    Fifteen minutes later the gangway was removed and the Arkhangelsk went underway.

    The president observed the ship, talked to officers, familiarised himself with conditions they work and had dinner with them. He also conducted a conference to listen to a detailed plan of strategic war games, involving both general staff activities and practical tactics of the army and fleet. The cruiser moved underwater at night.

    Large-scale exercises in the Barents Sea are part of the strategic general staff practices with the main purpose of checking the fighting capacity of the navy and its maritime strategic nuclear component.

    The exercises are staged with the involvement of ten surface ships and support vehicles, including the heavy aircraft cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov and he heavy nuclear missile cruiser "Pyotr Veliky", six underwater strategic missile-carriers and multi-purpose nuclear-powered submarines, anti-boat aircraft, helicopters, Air Force ship-based helicopters, fighter aviation and about 5,000 servicemen.

    Dozens of exercises and a bilateral tactical combat with the involvement of sea and air craft are planned to be performed during the manouevres.

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